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Midnight in Ruby Bayou    by Elizabeth Lowell order for
Midnight in Ruby Bayou
by Elizabeth Lowell
Order:  USA  Can
Avon, 2001 (2000)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by G. Hall

Midnight in Ruby Bayou is the latest thriller by New York Times best-selling author Elizabeth Lowell. The international jewelry world and the Seattle-based Donovan family (key players in this market) are at the center of the book. Lowell provides a fascinating look at this world, and especially the trade in rubies, without overburdening the reader with details. There are two very appealing main characters. Owen Walker works for the Donovans, doing everything from locating rubies in Afghanistan to handling security. Faith Donovan is the other main player. One of five Donovan siblings, she is a talented jewelry designer who runs her own store in Seattle.

The plot revolves around the 'heart of midnight', a fabled ruby from the time of the Czars (accidentally removed from the Hermitage when other less valuable jewels were 'deaccessioned'), sold illegally in the international gem market. Everyone, from the Russian mafia to Atlantic City gangsters, is looking for the jewel, which appears to have been shipped to Faith's store. In the meantime, Faith is busy designing a one-of-a-kind necklace for a wedding present. It is to be presented by the scion of the supposedly wealthy South Carolina Montegeaus when Faith's old college friend Mel marries the son of that family.

Father Montegeau has sent thirteen very valuable rubies to be incorporated in the necklace. Since all kinds of increasingly dangerous things happen to Faith as she works on the gift, Owen is assigned (against her will) to be Faith's bodyguard until the ruby necklace is presented to the new bride. Eventually Owen and Faith end up at Ruby Bayou for the wedding. There they encounter more peril as well as several very interesting new characters, including crazy aunt Tiga.

Although this book is a good read, it is at least 25% too long. This excess is taken up by way too much sexual tension between Faith and Owen, with too many cliches and repetition of images (e.g. Owen's lapiz lazuli eyes and the gardenia scent of Faith's hair). Eventually there is also much steamy sex. While I do not at all object to reading about heated sexual activities, it appeared as if the author used them to pad the book, and it slowed down the plot's momentum. However, Midnight in Ruby Bayou is still entertaining, with well-developed characters inhabiting a very interesting world.

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